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Can James Harden Become a Team-First Player?

A lot of people today would rank the likes of Jimmy Butler and Klay Thompson higher than James Harden, primarily because they each have impressive game-changing abilities; however, that doesn’t make James Harden any less talented or popular; you need only look at the betting odds to realize that.

Considering all the talk about Mike D'Antoni going to Houston, there is a chance that Harden could transform into the best point guard in the league, working alongside D'Antoni to win the Western Conference Playoff Race.

Everyone was sure that Dwight Howard’s decision to join the Rockets would make him and Harden an unstoppable force for years to come. The Rockets won a lot of games but only because of Harden’s offensive abilities.

Quickly rising through the ranks to become an outstanding offensive force on par with Allen Iverson, Harden has manifested a very impressive performance output, at one point coming in second behind Stephen Curry in the MVP Race.

Even Harden’s biggest critics have never denied that he has some of the most impressive offensive gifts on the court; the fact that his defensive output is so woeful doesn’t change that.

There is a reason Daryl Morey always seemed to favor Harden. There are few other players that can embody the ‘team first’ mentality quite like Harden, who had no problem playing third fiddle to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City.

Then again, being on a maximum-salaried contract probably kept Harden comfortable; and, seeing as he was a bench player, it is easy to see how the financial issues might have driven Oklahoma City to trade him.

As a combo guard off the bench, Harden was of tremendous value to Scott Brooks while he was with the Thunder. Sure, he was able to score, but his contribution as a floor manager is what set him apart, Harden giving Westbrook the chance to play off the ball and to pursue his own scoring opportunities aggressively.

A capable on-ball defender for Oklahoma City that was capable of protecting both guard positions, one cannot argue with the fact that the move to Houston gave Harden the chance to transform as a player, becoming more shot happy and seeking to play on one side of the court.

When he scored 37 points and contributed 12 assists in his very first game for Houston, during which they defeated the Detroit Pistons, it was an Omen of what was to come. Harden changed as a player, becoming this generation’s version of Allen Iverson, who was a ball-dominant guard that everyone came to know as a volume scorer.

Unlike Curry, who some have also compared to Iverson but who is content blending in on the offensive end and playing off the basketball, Harden is determined to push the boundaries to become a truly great offensive force, which his time with the Rockets has allowed him to do.

The presence of Mike D'Antoni might force Harden to revert to the team-first ball distributing scoring guard he initially was, though it is hard to determine whether or not he will actually do so.

Considering the high-octane offenses D'Antoni is known for, Harden might have to morph again to make their partnership work.